While the COVID pandemic shut down most of American society for virtually all of 2020, US baseball, basketball, American football, and professional soccer managed to compete in a reduced format. Its seasons were played or are being played now (in the case of football) in the midst of a pandemic that has ravaged the entire world, killing some 290,000 Americans so far. After being postponed for a few months, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) successfully completed their 2019-2020/2020 seasons by playing in well-controlled bubbles in Florida. The Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Seattle Storm (WNBA) emerged from the respective bubbles of their respective leagues as league champions.
Typically, the Major League Baseball (MLB) season consists of 162 regular season games from April to September. However, this year, players for MLB teams like the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants only played 60 games and had to follow strict COVID safety protocols after an initial shutdown when COVID-19 hit the United States. United toward the end of MLB spring training. Players preparing for the upcoming season had to return home until July, when league officials and players finally decided to begin an abbreviated schedule with no all-star break and expanded playoffs. Star players like Buster Posey and David Price opted not to play, possibly a wise decision given that several teams had to halt play for a period of time after experiencing a spread of the coronavirus. After the Dodgers took home the World Series after this bizarre season, MLB franchises are now firmly in offseason mode. In recent years, baseball’s best free agents have received massive contracts from teams desperate for their help. For example, last year the New York Yankees gave top free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole more than $300 million. However, due to the condensed schedule and overall drastic financial losses many teams face, 2020 free agency is moving very slowly. Many teams are employing cost-cutting procedures, and as a result many of the best available players have yet to sign new contracts.
The college and professional soccer teams are playing their seasons now. The NFL started its 2020 season on time and has forged ahead, canceling very few games despite a seemingly endless number of teams being forced to temporarily close facilities due to players testing positive for COVID. They recently moved the Baltimore Ravens v. Pittsburgh Steelers game to Wednesday, December 2 instead of canceling it. This decision was made following a massive COVID outbreak in the Ravens organization that halted play on Thanksgiving Day as scheduled.
In college football, each conference began play at a different time. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) and Big 12 began at normal early September time. While the Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences began play in late October or early November. Just like in professional football, there have been many cases of COVID-19 in college football. However, likely because college players are still fans and schools want to prevent the team’s outbreak from spreading on campus, college teams and schools are more likely to cancel games than the NFL.
While I’m delighted that sports have provided me with a source of entertainment during this challenging and terrible year, I can’t help but wonder if they are contributing to this ongoing pandemic. I also think it’s a bit unfair for professional athletes, coaches and other officials to get tested for COVID every day when many ordinary people have a hard time getting tested for COVID. Also, I agree with SF Chronicle’s Ann Killion who wrote an article expressing the hypocrisy that the Golden State Warriors can hold full indoor practices while the rest of Californians have to abide by the new restrictive stay-at-home orders. the home imposed by the governor of California, Gavin Newsom. .
With a safe and useful COVID vaccine on the way soon, hopefully 2021 will be a better year and sports and society can go back to the way they were before the virus destroyed the world.